I got an e-mail letting me know that I had passed my VMware VCAP5-DCA exam. Phew! I sat the exam a week before Christmas, so the news after Christmas about my pass was a belated Christmas present!

The exam was pretty much as described by the various other blog postings. The main problem I faced was time. I ended up skipping some questions due to time constraints. I wrote 1-26 on the note board and ticked them off as I went along. I did each question as it popped up unless I was not confident on being able to complete it fairly quickly. This was going well until a question on the vMA.

The question in question was related to something I had not actually done in my prep but I figured I knew enough about the vMA to complete it. I ended up spending about 12 minutes to to get the question completed but didn’t manage to. Looking back, I should have decided to move on much sooner. This wasted time resulted in me not having sufficient time at the end to complete a question I could have.

The other “blunder” I made was related to a cluster configuration. After I read the question I knew what needed to be done. I went through and completed the question and moved on. A few questions later I was back doing something else cluster related and noticed that the previous configuration which I remembered doing was missing!! So, I back tracked the questions (you can in the DCA exam but not in the DCD) and re-did the prior question – this time ensuring I clicked OK and then verified the configuration was there. I guess the first time I must have clicked “cancel”  rather than “OK” in one of the dialogue boxes. Doh! So this effectively cost me another question worth of time.

I went into the exam being aware that I’d not spent enough study time on auto-deploy or image profiles. Needless to say questions related to those topics caused me to use more time than necessary. As I said previously, I ended up missing a few questions out due to time constraints. Had the remote connectivity been quicker and the exam environment been more responsive, I would have been able to do one or two more questions rather than waiting for screen redraws and so on. I’m not saying it was unusable, but more like being on the end of a slow WAN link (oh wait, the exam kit is hosted far away…). The frustrating thing was that for one of the questions my usual troubleshooting method would be to have a couple of windows open and flick between them fairly quickly, diagnosing the problem. Due to the exam environment this was not terribly feasible and I ended up skipping the question to make progress on other questions.

So, my “lessons learned” from this exam for any future DCA exams I might do are:

  • Be time concious and don’t get bogged down with trying to make something work unless you are certain that you have the knowledge needed to complete the question.
  • Know all the content of the blueprint fairly well. Read between the lines of the blueprint to know how the knowledge would be used in a real world situation. So, as an example do know the options for cluster fail over capacity and know how the options would relate to a real world requirements. Try and understand how the topics contained within the blueprint apply to solving day-to-day administrations problems or meeting platform requirements.
  • Read through the supporting documents mentioned in the blueprint. Try to read all the entire documents at least once to get plenty of additional background knowledge.
  • Ensure plenty of hands-on LAB time. Try and use the version of vSphere mentioned within the blueprint. Currently vSphere 5.0!
  • Try and enjoy the exam. It does not feel too much like an exam as you are doing hands on problem solving
  • Be time concious (yes, it is that important I mention it twice!)


So, how did I study for the exam? Well, I did hands-on exercises in a nested LAB environment under VMware Workstation (thanks VCP5!!). I covered the blueprint fairly extensively doing tasks based on activities mentioned in the blueprint. I also did “extra credit” type exercises where I tried to apply the knowledge from the topics for some real-world issues I’ve experienced and some hypothetical examples I thought up.

I read the following books:

I read loads of blog posts and followed numerous VMware related twitter peeps. Here are a few of the blogs/postings which I found useful while studying. There were more, but unfortunately I don’t appear to have created bookmarks for them.

And useful for those nested ESXi labs – VMware Tools for ESXi

Hopefully the above will be useful to someone in the future!!



Well, I managed to pass the “VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Data Center Design” (VCAP5-DCD) exam yesterday! Hurray.

First – a shout out to the various blogs which helped with the studying. Unfortunately, I don’t have a central list thereof to post here, but if I get time to collate the links I will update this post. A very useful summary of the DCD content  is contained here at http://professionalvmware.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/VCAP5DCD_StudyOutline.pdf.

In summary, this exam is all about general design processes with an obvious slant towards the VMware virtualisation platform. So you need to know the VMware “base” vSphere offerings along with detail of “general design principles”. This exam is probably not going to be  easy for a day-to-day vSphere admin as this is not about testing technical knowledge of the product set. Having been in a variety of architecture roles for the last number of years I can attest to this exam being a fairly good  representation of the real and thought processes necessary to go from capturing requirements through to implementation and subsequent support. If only we could follow these processes for all projects 🙂

So what to cover in preparation? Well, follow the blueprint! It may seem obvious, but for this exam you need to read all (well at least most of!!) the referenced documentation. I don’t think you need much (if any) hands-on lab time to prepare for this exam. Knowing various available options in the products can be learnt from the documentation. Saying that though, I did do some hands on exercises to reinforce the learning. Various books are incredibly useful too, including “VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide” by Paul McSharry, “VMware vSphere Design 2nd Ed” by Forbes Guthrie and Scott Lowe and “VMware vSphere 5 /5.1 Clustering Deep Dive” by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman. “Mastering VMware vSphere 5” or “Mastering vSphere 5.5” (v5.5, less so for the exam I suppose) by Scott Lowe et al are great books and definitely worth reading, although can  be skipped for the DCD in my opinion if you don’t have the time.

I would point out that the exam is broadly focussed on vSphere 5.0 as opposed to 5.1/5.5. Don’t rule out any technologies  “removed” or “deprecated” by 5.1 and 5.5!

The exam itself. Well 3h45 is a long time for an exam. It flew by for me and I managed to finish with 15 minutes to spare. Somehow I made up time after the half way point which was a pleasant surprise. The 100 questions, of which I had 6 of the “Visio-like” design drawing, all covered the content from the blueprint. I don’t think there was anything which rang alarm bells as “whoa, where did that come from” – just a couple of questions where I though “drat, didn’t cover that in enough detail”. Remember, you cannot go back in this exam – so if you get a subsequent question which shows you answered something incorrectly earlier try not to let it get to you – move forward and stay focussed.

The design drawing questions are fairly straight forward if you can understand what they are trying to test.  That was the first problem I had – I struggled with a couple of them to understand what they were actually trying to get me to draw as I found some of the wording to be a little ambiguous. The rest were fairly straight forward.  Put down a few building blocks and link them together. Ah, and there is the second problem, when you are putting things into other things (for example, say a VM into an ESXi host) sometimes they would not stick and as such I was not sure if the tool “registered” the placement. Anyway – I tried not to get bogged down by this and quickly moved forward regardless. Do practise with the simulation tool on the VMware web site.

The remaining requestions are split between choose 1, choose 2 or choose 3 multiple choice and match the left column to the right column type questions. The multiple choice questions are generally the easier ones, although you need to pay attention to the exact wording and match it to phrases used in the prep material when describing the various terms. Keep an eye on the definitions in the “VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide” and “VMware vSphere Design 2nd Ed” books. The match the left to the right would be easy if they were all 1:1 mappings, which they are unfortunately not.  Some are 1:1 some are n:1 and others are 1:n. Tricky stuff! I consider myself pretty good at the requirements, risk, assumption and constraint stuff but some of the terms/phrases they used could be a little ambiguous – let’s hope they accept various answers. In these situations, I tried not to over think the wording and just read it at face value 🙂

So, all in all I think this is a pretty decent exam which does a good job of evaluating a candidate’s understanding of the topics at hand. I don’t think this is one of those exams where one can simply memorise a number of facts and pass.